Posts tagged Labs

As a few people have requested, our magical URL shortening service at now comes with a delicious API. It’s directly compatible with the API, and is so simple that even a monkey could use it (providing the monkey was familiar with the basics of HTTP GET and URL encoding).

Its usage is very simple. All you need to do is call with the GET parameter ‘longurl’ set to a URL encoded version of the URL you want shrinking. For example:

The site will then return (in plaintext) the shortened URL, or if you’ve broken it a HTTP 500 error code.

It’s really that easy. More changes are in the pipeline, and as always I am taking requests.

I thought you might be interested in taking a look at my new URL minifier:

This one is just for the University, operated entirely in-house, and because it’s a Labs project we can make it do what you want. Got something cool you want to see in a URL minifier? Want it to check links on occasion to make sure they’re working? Want to be able to change the destination of a link? Want to see custom namespaces for your links? Let me know.

Over the last couple of weeks, the Online Services Team (the nice bunch of people in ICT who look after – in broad terms – websites that do things) has acquired a shiny new server to muck around with and develop on. For the most part this involves Alex and myself slamming bits of the University together in weird and wonderful ways that nobody has thought of yet and seeing what sticks, what falls apart and what makes people complain. We’re calling the server (and the whole process) Labs.

“But wait!” I hear you cry. “Don’t we already have the Learning Labs?”. The answer is “yes” – we’re not reinventing the wheel here. What we’re doing is looking at new and better ways of building what we should be doing anyway, things like integrated search for the Library, improved room bookings, unified preference systems, improved customer support and sensible listings of the University’s websites (I think the most esoteric thing we’re working on is Touch, which uses RFID to enhance the Digital Signage project. Learning Labs, on the other hand, looks at pushing boundaries in new and interesting ways (as well as hopefully providing a platform for people to develop things which use the data we’re exposing).

Want to see something cool come from ICT? Let me know and we’ll see if it lines up with anything we want to try.

Last week I headed off to a conference in London called Dev8D, where I met a few hundred other developers from the HE sector (and others) and spent my time brainstorming ideas, messing about with RFID tags, mashing data together, attending workshops on the future of data representation, writing an iPhone app, learning to use the Force, drinking far too much complementary tea and coffee and fighting the mess that is the Underground on a weekend. In short, it was awesome fun. Out of it I’ve gleaned loads of useful bits and pieces which I can now use to push the bits of the University that I can get my hands on into the future with impunity, because somebody else has already done the research and I now know who.

Next up, Posters. We’re still waiting for our new development server on which the Online Services Team can develop, stage, test and show off our latest inventions. Once that’s up and running you’ll be able to have a go at breaking it and we’ll be open for feedback. Posters will also be the first production University site (albeit beta) to use our new CWD 2.0, and will also be providing data as RSS in the initial release, with JSON and XML further down the line. The ability for groups such as student societies to add posters, along with a streamlined online approval process, will be in place ready for once Posters leaves beta.